Sunday, January 25, 2015

Finding Freedom

Sometimes the Spirit is so present I am overwhelmed with emotions.  Tears flowed down my cheeks as I saw God at work today.  I believe we are on the verge of God doing amazing things in and through our church in Obulle.  It is time for a harvest!

A year and a half ago we met a man in Obulle named Sam.  Sam worked everyday helping to build our house.  Sam stood out with his great smile and humble nature.  I would have thought he was a boy only to find out he is married and has six kids.  Since meeting Sam, Josh has been praying for him to know the Lord.  About two months ago our family visited Sam’s home.  We were able to meet his family, enjoy a meal, and share the Gospel with him and his wife.  Since then our family has been praying for Sam and his family to come to Christ.

Sam has been quite sick for months now.  His legs and hands are so weak he cannot drive the motorcycle he drives for work.  In his words he just sits at home.  He was sought help from doctors to witch craft only to remain in pain.  Our neighbor and church leader, Charles, knowing Sam needs spiritual healing has been meeting and sharing with Sam. 

Today Sam came to church for the first time.  And by no coincidence, today our church also began teaching on the 7 steps to Freedom in Christ.  From the songs, to testimonies of people going from bitterness to peace, to the fellowship of believers there was a common message of the freedom God can bring when you submit to Him and say no to the devil.  The first step for believes to live in the freedom Christ has given us is to repent and renounce the sin of worshipping anything other than God.  Yes, people in our church are saved by God’s grace but not everyone lives daily in Christ’s victory.  The beautiful sound of people repenting and dedicating themselves to the one true God makes me rejoice!  This is life!  This is what I want to be a part of and live for!  God’s kingdom coming!

Josh also gave an invitation to come to Christ for the first time, to repent and receive the free gift Jesus Christ offers all of us.  Sam was listening, and Sam came forward to ask Jesus into his life.  Alleluia!!!  I couldn’t hold back the tears as one sinner’s life was made new in Jesus.  God is here and this is where I want to be!  It is at these moments that I realize no treasures or pleasures of this world could compare to the joy of knowing and sharing Jesus. 

Sam was saved today and I had the privilege of being there.  There was no party after church and everyone went home as usual but I know Heaven is having a celebration.  I know our Father is smiling and satan is scared.  God is saving the lost and breaking the chains of sin that don’t belong on His children – Christ has set us free!  Change is coming for all those who submit to God and resist the devil – because then God comes near to us.

God reminded me today through His spirit what I need to be living for.  I had become confused, focused on myself and problems, looked to other things for joy…but today God worked in me: 
-A church member testifying about her life of bitterness and how God used Josh teaching God’s truth to free her and her husband.  They now live in peace even when troubles come.  
-Josh shared the story of our dear friend Maryomu in Nigeria and how God worked in her life.  Remembering how we got to see her move from hopelessness and bitterness to a life of joy and peace in the Lord made me cry.  I love Maryomu.  I miss all our brothers and sisters in the Lord in Mahula.  I am so thankful God allowed me to be apart of what He did in their lives. 
-Letting the Lord once again look inside me and show me where I needed to repent.  Letting go of things I gave some of the worship that only God deserves.  Only He can be on the throne.  God alone deserves my time, my thoughts, being my source of joy…  Repenting and submitting as a church is powerful.       
Pray for Sam.  Pray for him to grow every day in the Lord.  Pray that God heals his physical illness.  Pray that Esther, his wife, comes to know Jesus too.  Pray for our church as we submit to God and resist the devil.  That God will come near as we repent of sin, renounce evil, and dedicate ourselves to God.

The 7 Steps to Freedom in Christ:

  1. idolatry vs worship of God
  2. deception vs truth
  3. bitterness vs forgivness
  4. rebellion vs submission
  5. pride vs humility
  6. bondage vs freedom
  7. generational sin 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Persevering in Hard Times

I have so much to catch you up on.  My brain is full and my heart is heavy.  Do I share with you all the joys from our family life?  Fill you in on our trials and hardships?  Let you know how ministry is going?  Some ways I have simply been to weary to write anything and too low to respond to anyone, but my heart wants to share with you.  How?  I’d love to sit and have coffee with you, soak in some wisdom, be loved in your hug, and covered with prayers.  I can’t share everything but I do want to share my life with you as best I can. 

As a family we are healthy and blessed.  So thankful for all your prayers during so much sickness!  Health is not something to take for grated. 

Malai is two (Dec. 27) and starting to talk more and more.  She has personality!  We are always laughing because of her.  Her new cute thing is dancing – she just has to move whenever she hears music or we are singing.  I love when she says her new favorite phrase, “oh yah, oh yah”, and does a little dance.  Malai now things she has to pray after every meal.  She covers her eyes and gabbers away.  She is learning names too.  She use to call Lydia “LaLo” but now can say “Lilia”.  She now knows Lucy’s name too (the women who helps us).  Mostly she will just yell “boy!” when she wants to call the kids.  More and more I am hearing little sentences from her too.  Everything she says makes me smile.  She is also learning Ateso.  About ¼ of her words are in Ateso.  It is so cute.  She yells for the girls to come in Ateso, tells us to pray in Ateso, and to go.  How exciting to think she could know Ateso in a few years.  Josh hopes she does so she can teach him.  We have all improved and learned more Ateso living in Obulle.  Don’t get me wrong it is VERY little yet but nice to be able to hear and communicate a little more.  

Luka asked Jesus to be in his heart a couple month ago!  How special to pray with him and see him begin to understand and grow.  He is all boy and enjoys making guns out of sticks and playing with his bow and arrows.  He also loves anything with a ball.  Josh is thankful to have a son to share similar interests.  Funny story about Luka, the other day he told the girls we needed to get rid of something because the lady was wearing a “zucchini”.  At first we didn’t know what he meant until Grace said not a zucchini a bikini! 

Lydia continues to grow up.  What a beautiful young lady she is becoming.  Thankfully she still willing to play with her siblings too.  A mix of girl and lady.  I admire Lydia’s faith.  We have family worship on Sunday evenings and her prayers encourage me.  The other night she prayed that all the meetings would stop so the adults wouldn’t have to be overwhelmed and that we were all able to focus on the positive things instead of the negative.  Grace too prays from the heart.  She often thanks God for her neighbor friends and the example they are to her and that she can be a good example to them too.  She prays deeply about the suffering they see and hear about all around them. 

Josh preached his first part of a sermon in Ateso!  I was so shocked and he did it so naturally that I almost missed it.  It was only the introduction but he did great.  The people loved it!  It was funny to have the translator translate his Ateso to English.  Pray for Josh to continue to learn Ateso and find a good teacher.  His goal is to preach a whole sermon in Ateso this year. 

As for me…I turned 36 Dec. 15.  The best part of my birthday was hearing why each family member loved and appreciated me.  I am so glad my girls are thankful I teach them about Jesus, spend time with them, help them as they grow, and love them.  And have a husband who adores me, appreciates me and is my best friend.  Most of all I am thankful God loves me and planned for me before time.  I am made, used and loved by the King!

Josh’s parents visited for almost three weeks.  It was great to share our new home with them and for them to see their grandkids play with their friends and speak Ateso.  We also made fun memories on safari.  I am thankful for their visit but over the last few years there has been a switch.  The first 10 years on the mission field I longed for visitors.  I needed them.  Now it seems the visitors need to come and see us.  I am NOT saying I do not want visitors!  I am just saying our family and home are now established I am not so needy.  I am thankful family and friends want to come and see us.  My parents are now coming in February.  The kids can’t wait!

Now for the hardships we are going through.  How do I share this?  We have been on the mission field since 2001 and this has been the most difficult three months we have had.  We have been through sicknesses even near death sickness, loneliness and isolation, threats and danger…but when it is the pain of relationships, confusion satan brings, waiting and nothing you can do, ministry on hold because of the mess and wrongs done it effects everything.  People can really hurt people.  I realize more and more I am a very discerning person – I can just feel to the core when something is right or wrong.  It isn’t something I talk about much or go on because how do you explain it?  But during the most difficult weeks I was distraught like never before.  I just knew things were going very wrong. 

We have gone through all the emotions.  Sometimes it seems like our 8 years of learning and ministry can be ruined or stolen in a matter of days.  Our conclusion over and over is that satan got his hand in this.  The confusion points right to him.  So we know God is at work if satan is trying to attack so badly.  I do admit though it is also one of the times in my life I had to hang on to Jesus with all my might because it was by faith not sight.  Everything around us was painful, confusion, a mess, feeling upset, stress, and unending.  I had to daily – or moment by moment – choose to believe the truth and trust God and His Word.  I didn’t always feel it but I chose to believe it.  It was a roller coaster.  I was tired and low from the continual hurt and wrongs that wouldn’t end.  Who do you go to?  Who do you talk to?  We live in a village in Africa and all the white people know each other, not everyone at home understands especially the uniqueness of the mission field, and you can’t say too much or are too tired to say it – plus who wants to say it over Skype?  I needed to be held. 

Each day we choose to spend time in God’s Word and praying knowing His truth would sustain us.  He would lead our emotions, give us wisdom, and assurance.  Some days it was an act of obedience, but I am telling you there is nothing other than God and His Word that will get you through difficult times!  The promises that God gives us are true.  They are what gave me enough strength to go on another day.  To believe God was with us and at work.  I had no hope unless I truly trusted God. 

One of the big promises I held on to is that God is our Defender.  Everything we did would be viewed wrong so we had to trust God would defend us.  I also held on dearly to God is my Refuge.  He is my place of safety and peace.  He is my Shield protecting me.  My Rock in the storm and when emotions can go everywhere He is my stability. 

The Psalms are an amazing expression of all we have cried out.  Like David we prayed to God in our pain, tears, anger, confusion, stress, fear…crying out to Him to hear and answer us.  Almost every Psalm of David after the despair and complaints ends with praise and trust in God.  That was my prayer over and over.  I am completely honest with God – He can handle all of me – I was broken before Him.  I share my hurt, anger, and my sin.  And in the end I know God is God.  He is in control and I will trust Him.  He is worthy of all our praise.

So here we are.  There are no answers or conclusion yet.  We are still dealing with all that has happened.  But somehow now I have much more peace.  It isn’t over and the future is unsure but we know what we need to do.  Josh and I have chosen to forgive.  We will seek reconciliation but we can only do our part.  We are seeking the Lord’s will so we can follow obediently.  Right now we know God has called us to serve Him in Obulle.

We are also seeking council from wise, godly leaders in our lives. This week God sent three different ways (people) who affirmed us and shared great wisdom.  We were very encouraged by this.  I have been reading Blessed are the Peacemakers by Neil Anderson about Christ’s ministry of reconciliation given to us.  I liked his definition of forgiveness, “forgiveness is accepting the consequence of someone else’s sin.”  It isn’t fair but it is God’s way.  I am seeking the Lord to know what it looks like to love others.  Jesus loved yet wasn’t friends with some.  He even yelled and called names when people were in the wrong.  Yet He is love.  I know my love can only come from Him. 

Well, I guess I shared a lot.  I hope I didn’t share too much yet enough for you to understand and pray with us.  So many of you care about us and have asked how we really are.  Thank you for praying with us.            

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Wonderful Christmas...and 2nd Birthday!

Lydia, Grace and Luka said part of Luke 2 and sang for our Christmas service. 
As they practiced the week before Christmas I was touched by the simple beauty of Christ birth. 
This is the real reason we celebrate Christmas.  Jesus came from glory to the sufferings of this world because He loved us.
  Come let us adore Him!

Our family Christmas Eve 2014

What JOY our children brought us this Christmas!

Christmas Eve with friends and family

We enjoyed appetizers, gifts, a meal, Christmas carols, dessert...all the sights and sounds of Christmas...together.

Our Malai enjoying Christmas

The kids did a nativity as we sang Christmas carols

Christmas Day - Lydia and her friend with matching dresses

Josh preached the Christmas day sermon

Our kids nativity choir

Lydia by one of at least three pots of rice for our Christmas meal with our church

Malai "helped" by sweeping

Our Christmas looks different than yours but we are thankful to still be with people we love.
I really enjoyed when they sang a couple of their Christmas songs (listen below).

Enjoying our Christmas meal of rice and meat.

We had a big surprise after our time at church and got a big rain storm (in dry season).
It wasn't snow but it cooled us off and we watched the from the window as our yard filled with puddles.

Christmas night we had our family Christmas

That is our Grace - with her beloved fake glasses

Lydia and Grace got sisters willow tree dolls

Malai was so cute with her presents.
"Mine" was her favorite word.  She took time opening each present and was excited to see what was inside.
She LOVED her "lop lops" best and often sleeps with them on.

Lydia is our reader and was thrilled with more books to read

What a great Christmas!

Dec. 27th Emalai turned 2!

How we love you Malai! 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Rest of G&G Shaarda's Trip

We arrived home from bringing Grandpa and Grandma Shaarda to the airport and jumped right into Christmas and all it's fun, so here are the rest of the pictures from their time here - finally.

Our friends had us over for a meal while Dad and Mom were here. 
It was great to share the people we love with them and let them see their lives.


Cutting pork for supper

The joy of sharing normal life with Grandma

And Grandpa

We ending our time together with a fun safari
There are always great up close animals to see

These are the people in front of us to give you an idea how close you can get - awesome!

Crested Cranes


This is how we traveled for hours and hours - and still smiling!

Hard to say goodbye again but we are thankful for a very special time together!